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The Role of Cannabis in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disruptive condition that affects people who have experienced a disturbing or traumatic event, such as sexual assault, rape, military combat, or a natural disaster. Unlike other anxiety disorders, PTSD is unique in that it tends to persist.

This is likely due to the changes in the brain that occur at the moment of the traumatic incident. As life goes on, the brain does not adapt to these changes and instead keeps releasing stress hormones and keeping the patient in a state of hyper-arousal.

The Link between Cannabis and PTSD

 Living with PTSD can be confusing and challenging, especially since there are no specialized medications available. Currently, the best most doctors can offer is cognitive-behavioral therapy to help re-map the brain. There are no specialized medications for PTSD. Most patients use anxiety medications for the panic attacks and talk therapy to help ease the aftermath of the trauma.

New research suggests that the endocannabinoid system may be the key to targeting many mental health issues. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is conducting in-depth research on the effects of cannabis on PTSD. They have found a shocking connection between PTSD and anandamides, the endogenous cannabinoid compound naturally present in every mammal. Their current hypothesis is that at least one aspect of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency.

How Cannabis Can Help

 If PTSD sufferers simply aren’t capable of producing enough innate endocannabinoids to fill their receptor sites, medical marijuana is a synthetic alternative that can alleviate feelings of anxiety and other troubling symptoms that disrupt daily life. The goal is to replenish lost endocannabinoids, which target receptor sites that allow the brain to “forget” traumatic memories.

In a healthy brain, fear extinction occurs naturally, and traumatic memories fade gradually with time. In PTSD, fear extinction is seriously impaired and coupled with chronic anxiety, it causes sufferers to become isolated and withdrawn in order to avoid opportunities to be triggered and experience flashbacks.

Scientific Evidence

 The evidence seems hard to deny: endocannabinoid receptors play a strong and active role in treating mental health disorders, specifically PTSD. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that medical marijuana cannot treat PTSD at a root level.  However, medical marijuana can be effective at providing relief from unpleasant and frightening symptoms in the meantime.

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